On September 29, 2021, Nikos Mantzaris participated virtually in the Montenegrin “National Conference on Just Transition”, organized by the NGO Eco-Team. Representatives of the national authorities (Ministry of Economic Development, Ministry of Capital Investments, Municipality of Pljevlja), European organizations (European Union, Energy Community) and other think tanks and NGOs (Coal regions in transition in Western Balkans and Ukraine, Center for the Study of Democracy, CEE Bankwatch Network) also took part in the conference.
Nikos Mantzaris talked about the Just Transition experience in Greece and lessons learned that could be of use for Montenegro. Highlighting the historical significance of the 2019 decision to phase out lignite, he provided a brief description of recent in Just Transition developments in Greece.
In particular, he noted that the announcement to phase out lignite, followed a long-period of detrimental delays regarding Greece’s energy policy. Those delays resulted in heavy economic losses for the Public Power Corporation (PPC), as well as, loss of precious time to prepare the transition, especially in the Greece’s two lignite regions – Western Macedonia and Megalopoli – whose economies are highly dependent on lignite mining and burning activities. If the Greek governments decided to phase out right after Paris and the previous EU ETS reform when it was absolutely obvious that Greece’s lignite industry exploiting the poorest, by far, quality lignite in the EU, has no future, Greece’s lignite regions would be in a much better shape today.
Despite these delays, there were few actors, namely mayors and NGOs that had initiated public debate on the post-lignite period, leading to the establishment of a National Just Transition Fund, the first of its kind in an EU Member State, before the establishment of the EU Just Transition Fund. In fact, he noted that these same actors had sought to establish an EU Fund prior, to its final establishment in 2020.
Hence, several key messages can be drawn: the need for early planning, securing sufficient funding, seeking diversified investment opportunities for the local economies and following participatory processes that involve local stakeholders – especially mayors, and key actors such as NGOs, and think tanks.